a human throat (ineffable)

The dead cannot call out to us. All they can do is wait for us to call to them.

A Man, Keiichiro Hirano
i have always disliked xmas
     holidays and bow-wrapped gifts 
     the shortest daylight of the year
     the seasonal depression
     of being always a stranger

i have been losing xmas eve
     social media reminding me
     a crushed cycling helmet from 2016
     a text message xmas morning 2020
     my aunt killed herself the night before
i have not cried for my aunt yet
     our fractured family tensions
     quilted with abrupt texts and messaging
     verbalizing the weight of suicide
     the frailty of just being human
i have pervasive anxiety about that frailty
     the shock of suicide reminds me of Camus
     “that after a while you could get used to anything”
     except of course those who can no longer
     fathom simply waking up one xmas morning
i have so many mostly ineffable words
     minutiae tenuous melancholia existentialism mundane
     this language merry-go-round chiming out of kilter
     her matter-of-fact obituary-life of 192 words
     a 17-word text admitting “box cutter” and “throat”
—P.L. Thomas

proximity (poetry & polar bears)

Candor is incompatible with freedom.

The Naked Eye, Yoko Tawada
i am afraid
neither of poets
nor of polar bears
none of this
really has much
to do with fear
most of this
i think instead
is a matter of proximity
i will never be close
enough to a polar bear
to realize that fragility
i am terrified however
of never again being
mauled by poetry
you see i will never walk
across the snow covered ice
trafficked by polar bears
but i long to be
lured over and over
onto the thin ice of a poem
—P.L. Thomas 

my body is failing me (the bees returned)

What I want
All I really wanted
Just to live my life on high

“I’ve Been High,” R.E.M.

i. <my body is failing me>
my body is failing me aging
in ways only my lover knows
with the bittersweet awareness of intimacy
and then briefly revealed disappointment 
i watch my lover paint her fingernails black
her bare feet with toenails candy apple red
if i took a picture to hold her/us there
as if i could stop time from buzzing by
it still would change nothing about me
a body failing me and her there on the floor
ii. <the bees returned>
the bees returned
a couple weeks into november
a hurricane well to our south
pushing summer-like fall back
over us after a first taste of winter
honey bees and yellow jackets
swarming in the warming air
while thunderstorms surrounded us
overdressed in long sleeves and jackets
iii. <this>
i have told her everything i can so far
into a yellowing life that less remains now
but this:
bee stings swell and ache
in the cusp of fall and winter
as if it were the heart of summer
—P.L. Thomas 

Too many have written

Too many have written
about the dilemma
of gods falling in love
with mere mortals
O the choices!
O the sacrifices!
to be a god smitten
with a mutable human
What bullshit however
since these authors
clearly have themselves
never been in love
O the choices!
O the sacrifices!
to be a human smitten
with another human
We need not imagine
gods falling in love
to understand that weight
of loving singular and deep
To hell with Zeus and Superman!
I am tired of the posturing
while I live in a state of decay
regardless of the pull of my heart
A god’s terrible sacrifice
pales against the skin
of human lovers embracing
in full awareness of Death
Promising despite it all
“I will love you forever”
even though we cannot
give more than our brief lives
—P.L. Thomas
Leda and the Swan by Peter Paul Rubens (public domain)

children, children, black&white

Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright…
“The Tyger,” William Blake
Dost thou know who made thee…
“The Lamb,” William Blake

children, children, black&white
do you know who made you

made you black
made you white
made you neither

children, children, black&white
do you know who loves you

we will see you
hold you tight
our precious children

—P.L. Thomas

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wisteria (like a photograph)

i am so tired
i can barely lift my arms

i struggle to carry myself
from one moment to the next

there are two photographs
of my mother lying in the sun
both dated JUL 71

she is so rail thin
i fear she could not stand
or lift a finger if needed

i am reminded of another photograph
of my sister and me on the floor
dated AUG 68

we are so rail thin
that my grandmother cried
when my mother showed her

we drive past a canopy of wisteria
in the early days of a pandemic spring

i am sure i know the word “wisteria”
because of my mother who loved purple

when i look at photographs now
there is a melancholia of recognition

everyone captured in these moments
wanted to live forever like a photograph

—P.L. Thomas

skinny rose alone 71skinny rose with patsy 71skinny paul and eydie 68

the consequences of gravity (one last flight)

i am losing track of time and space
and 3-D

i am flattening out

here and square on the floor
like a tile

i misread the consequences
of gravity

thinning out to almost nothing

please be careful where you step
and stand

i cannot bear the weight of you
on me

in this grave situation i did not expect
so soon

i have worried myself paper-thin

we will not fill up and drift away
it seems

but wither to almost nothing

if you find the time
and me here on the floor

lift me gently before
folding me into a paper airplane

take me to the tallest building
to send me on one last flight

—P.L. Thomas

our personal pandemic

I hunger to commit the act of touch.
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

we stopped shaking hands
we kept each other at arm’s length

we were so afraid of dying
we soon stopped living

we remembered each other’s finger tips
we dreamed about each other’s lips

no one was simply waving
everyone in fact was drowning

the shorelines left abandoned
beaches stretched like barren deserts

we stopped shaking hands
we kept each other at arm’s length

we were so afraid of dying
we soon stopped living

—P.L. Thomas

a theory of balloons

the little/ lame balloonman/ whistles
[in Just-], e.e. cummings


you say “existential”
to my 5-year-old grand-daughter
talking about the homeless man
wearing camouflage
& sitting cross-legged
by the highway


while waiting on our pizza
the balloon woman
makes her a butterfly
with pink wings
a yellow body
& a Sharpie® smiley face


she wears the balloon butterfly
on her tiny child’s arm
sitting in her car seat
worrying about her brother
popping the balloon
when she gets home


i tell her balloons & butterflies
are both beautiful colorful
frail & certain to die
so we should enjoy them
while we have the chance
& not worry about that


we try to soothe her
by saying we have pictures
of the butterfly balloon
that will last forever
but she says “except a video”
so you record her theory of balloons


balloons pop if there’s something spiky
then you cry & cry & then you get one later
i’ve got a balloon butterfly
& i’m never going to pop it
sometimes i’m going to pop it
& that’s okay i’m going to stop thinking about it


you tell her just to repress her feelings
& accept this is as part of life
that sometimes things break
just is what it is (we’re laughing)
no need to feel anything about it
& she says okay too seriously


she falls asleep as we drive
the balloon butterfly clinging
to her tiny child’s arm
too beautiful & terribly frail
i carry her in sleep-heavy in my arms
like a balloon or a butterfly

—P.L. Thomas

balloon butterfly sky


on turning 59, dementia, and social media

The day I die, the day I die
Where will we be?
“Day I Die,” The National

I want today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon
“Eleven,” Sandra Cisneros

after i shuffle off this mortal coil
after i no longer cling to this corporeal thing called My Life

if you still love me
if you can still love me

do not post pictures of my dementia on social media
do not there document that physical and mental decline

me crouched empty-eyed in the corner like a child
except for the face and clothes of an elderly man

please find something to remember
to share of the fleeting better me

if you can

or simply do nothing not even a zero
because i am no longer there or even any Me

the balloon has been set free from the string
rising finally and then completely out of sight

—P.L. Thomas